How to Overcome a Gambling Problem

Gambling involves risking something of value (money or other material goods) on a random event where there is an expectation of winning a prize. This element of uncertainty, whether it be the roll of a dice or the outcome of a horse race, has been a driving force behind gambling throughout history. People engage in gambling activities for a variety of reasons, including the desire to win money, social status, or power.

While a majority of gamblers do not experience problems, a small proportion will develop an addiction to the activity that can have serious consequences for their health and wellbeing. This can impact on relationships, employment and study, and can even result in legal troubles or homelessness.

The first step in overcoming a gambling problem is recognising that you have a problem. The next is taking action to reduce your exposure to gambling. This can include:

Setting limits on how much money you will be prepared to lose. You could set up an automatic payment to your bank, let someone else be in charge of your finances, close online betting accounts, and only carry a limited amount of cash on you. This can help you avoid spending more than you can afford to lose and prevent you from becoming hooked on gambling again.

Finding healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom. You can try meditating, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, exercising, taking up a new hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques. Developing stronger support networks can also be helpful, and you might consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Trying to recover from a gambling problem takes strength and courage. However, many people have successfully overcome their addictions, and there is hope for anyone struggling with this issue. If you’re ready to take the next step, BetterHelp can match you with a therapist who can help with your gambling problem and other issues you may be dealing with.

Realizing you have a gambling problem can be scary, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money and strained or broken your relationships. It’s important to get help as soon as possible, so you can break the cycle and start repairing your life.

Historically, the psychiatric community has not viewed pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder—a category that included behaviors such as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). But in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association has moved pathological gambling to a chapter on behavioral addictions. This shift reflects research on the biological basis of addiction and has already changed the way psychiatrists treat their patients. It will likely influence policy-making and future research on the disorder as well.